Reports: Notre Dame special teams coordinator Brian Polian will join Brian Kelly at LSU

Notre Dame Athletics
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Brian Kelly will bring at least one Notre Dame assistant coach with him to LSU. Tuesday reports indicate special teams coordinator Brian Polian has decided to head to Baton Rouge. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman first reported Polian’s choice.

The reports do not suggest an exact timeline for Polian’s move, but many assistant coaching decisions become public knowledge after the early signing period, which runs from Dec. 15 to Dec. 17. Given the high-profile nature of this particular case, though, perhaps Polian or Notre Dame will publicly confirm it sooner than that.

Late Tuesday night update: Polian posted a note to Twitter which makes it clear he is indeed leaving Notre Dame “on a new adventure,” though he did not name a destination. The tweet can be found at the bottom of this article.

Polian joined Kelly’s staff in South Bend entering the 2017 season, part of the staff overhaul after the 2016 debacle. Polian had previously coached at Notre Dame under Charlie Weis in 2005-09. Under Kelly, Polian also handled recruiting coordinator duties until the spring of 2021 when he instead became Kelly’s associate head coach.

Both those additional duties made sense for Polian on two fronts. One, he was the only coach on Kelly’s staff — until Jeff Quinn became offensive line coach in 2018 — to have been a head coach on his own, leading Nevada to a 23-27 record in four seasons between his stints in South Bend. Two, Polian had a familiarity with the entire roster as special teams coordinator, the only coach on staff who regularly interacted with players from all position groups.

Having that overview of the roster from another veteran coach is something Kelly long valued.

“I would say, of all the coaches on a day-to-day basis, the one that probably makes my life the easiest is, I’m gonna go with Brian Polian,” Kelly said last month. “He makes my life the easiest. Because of special teams. It’s so hard. It’s a hard job. That’s a lot of work. A lot of the little things on a day-to-day basis that go along with that. You gotta take that whole group, O-linemen, D-lineman DBs, linebackers. That’s a lot of work.”

Furthermore, Polian’s recruiting skills have long stood out, namely his Hawaiian touch which brought players like Manti Te’o, Alohi Gilman and Jordan Botelho to northern Indiana.

Polian is the first reported departure from the Irish coaching staff after the abrupt transition from Kelly’s 12-year tenure to Marcus Freeman. Those either officially or otherwise clearly staying on Freeman’s staff include offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, tight ends coach John  McNulty, defensive line coach and possible future defensive coordinator Mike Elston, safeties coach Nick O’Leary and cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens.

Kelly also has reportedly hired Jake Flint to helm the Tigers’ strength and conditioning program. Flint was, for all intents and purposes, the No. 2 in that role behind Matt Balis at Notre Dame, and Balis was the first piece of retention target by director of athletics Jack Swarbrick.

Flint has been with Kelly since 2007, including his entire time in South Bend. He replaces an LSU legend in Tommy Moffitt, who had been part of three national championship teams and led the Tigers’ strength and conditioning program for 21 years.

Kelly also reportedly hired a former LSU assistant coach, Frank Wilson, spurring him to surprisingly resign as the head coach at McNeese State. In Wilson and Polian, Kelly added two well-known and proven recruiters to his staff in Baton Rouge.